It’s no secret that Nike Chairman Phil Knight is the Oregon athletic departments biggest fan and most influential financial backer. His contributions have been key to creating the much discussed athletic facilities and are visible across the University of Oregon campus (the law school and main library both have ‘Knight’ in the name). Just before Oregon’s Civil War match-up with Oregon State Knight gave an extensive interview on his association with Oregon football, saying that the Ducks are “exactly on plan,” when asked about their rise to national prominence. Here are some excerpts from the interview.
On why he feels athletics are important to the university:
I think the athletic department is really the best marketing tool that the University of Oregon has. I think the university’s athletic department has really been upgraded over the last several years. You look at this year and the university has a chance to be national champions in football, women’s track and field, in baseball and in golf. That’s never happened, ever. To continue that is something you’d like to do and I know the president of the university (Richard Lariviere) is trying to upgrade the whole university.
On what legendary track coach Bill Bowerman, who coached Knight as a collegiate runner, would think of the facilities Knight has helped build:
He thought, when I was running, that the athletes were too soft … that the ultimate track spike, because of the weight, would be a nail through the foot, but the kids were too pampered to put up with that. So, I would think he’d think (today’s) facilities were much too grand for these kids — but he’d still enjoy this ride.
On the risk of losing coach Chip Kelly given his soaring national profile:
Yeah, he’s shown some pretty good potential. (pause) We’ll just do what we can to make it the best coaching job in the world.
On the rumors he has a headset in his luxury box that lets him listen in on the playcalling:
If it was true I couldn’t say, huh?
Whether he’s listening in to Chip Kelly’s playcalls or not Knight has clearly helped call the right plays for the Oregon athletic department. The debate will rage on about the cost of college athletics and the influence mega-boosters have on the teams they support but the impact on the program is undeniable.
You can read the full interview from The Oregonian newspaper here